Aegon International Eastbourne fans enjoyed a cracking day’s tennis yesterday (29 June), with all 36 matches from the day’s jam-packed schedule completed under sunny skies at Devonshire Park and two British women – Jo Konta and Heather Watson – reaching the semifinals at Eastbourne for the first time in the tournament’s history.
In the quarterfinals, Gael Monfils [FRA] faced Bernard Tomic [AUS] in a contest that turned into rich entertainment for the Court One spectators. A tight first set saw Monfils’ athleticism pitched against Tomic’s strong-and-silent style, including one astonishing Monfils leap to retrieve a Tomic lob far above head height, and one game that went to so many deuces that a spectator, returning with his refreshments and waiting at the entrance to the arena, was moved to call “Hurry up, Gael, my ice-creams are melting”! The Frenchman raced away to take the second set to love – but not before a couple of priceless points at the net – the pair exchanging volleys like doubles players.
No.1 seed Novak Djokovic [SRB] progressed to the semi-finals courtesy of a tricky win over Donald Young [USA] 6-2 7-6 and credited the Devonshire Park fans with getting him through a tough second set tiebreak. “It was great – I really want to say how grateful I am to really feel very pleasant, very much like at home, on the court and off the court, as well,” said Djokovic of his Eastbourne visit. “There is a lot of people thanking me for coming to Eastbourne. That's something I haven't really expected. I'm really grateful for their kindness, obviously the good vibe that comes around the town because of the tennis.
“There so many matches and so many courts. There is always something to see. The town is vibrating and kind of breathing for tennis this week.”
Top seed Angelique Kerber [GER] secured her place in the quarterfinals with a 6-2 6-1 victory over Lara Arruabarrena setting up a clash with Eastbourne’s Johanna Konta, who had a Centre Court battle to get past French Open Champion Jelena Ostapenko [LAT] 7-3 3-6 6-4.
Meanwhile, Karolina Pliskova [SVK] was tested by Shuai Peng [CHN] 7-6(3) 6-4, before edging out Svetlana Kuznetzova [RUS] 6-7(7) 6-2 6-4 to reach the semifinal.
In the bottom half of the draw Britain’s Heather Watson – after an earlier victory over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova [RUS] – faced Barbora Strycova [GER], conqueror of Lauren Davis [USA] earlier in the day. There were highs and lows of emotion for Guernsey’s favourite player as she took the first set confidently and convincingly. She seemed briefly to falter as Strycova levelled the match, before collecting herself and fighting through to claim her semifinal place 6-1 1-6 6-4.
“In the last couple of months, I have really been putting in the work on and off the court, and I felt really good on the court in practice, and it's just building that confidence and momentum with match wins,” said Watson. “I have had a few here and there, and now it's just really come together and I feel great on the match court. I feel confident. I feel like I'm moving well, seeing the ball well, and being aggressive.”
High drama on Centre Court late in the day saw Konta take the first set of her quarterfinal against world No.1 Kerber, and stand at match point 5-4 deuce and advantage in the second set when an on-court slip halted play. Konta recovered swiftly to run out the winner 6-4 6-4, rounding off a productive day that saw her score her defeat two Grand Slam champions in one day, including scoring her first victory over Kerber.
“I’m feeling actually not too bad,” said Konta after her match. “I got checked out and I’ve got no signs of concussion. That’s the most important thing. Just got a bit of a sore head. I’m sure I’ll pull up well tomorrow.
“I’m overall happy with the day. It was a long day. Not just for myself but for all the players. Played a lot of tennis today. So, I’m happy that I was able to make it two out of two. But most importantly I felt I competed well in each match and I played two very different players so I was quite happy with how I adapted as well.”
Another feast of Aegon International tennis awaits spectators at Devonshire Park today, with Watson opening the action on Centre Court against No.6 seed Wozniacki in a match scheduled to start at 11am, followed by Konta against Pliskova. Third match on Centre Court sees top seed Djokovic taking on Medvedev before Richard Gasquet [FRA] rounds out the semifinal action against Monfils.
The Court One schedule is equally action-packed with top pairs the Bryan Brothers, and Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua among the doubles duos in action.